EASTON, PA. – After waiting 40 years for an NCAA tournament berth, the men’s basketball team will have to wait at least one more after losing to the University of Pennsylvania, 77-58.
In the final contest of a two-game Ivy playoff, Yale (20-10) fell behind early and never caught up to a powerful Quaker team (25-6) Saturday night at a sold-out Kirby Sports Center at Lafayette College. With the win, the Quakers earn the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Elis now await a potential berth in 40-team NIT field, which will be announced Sunday night.
“We didn’t get the job done tonight,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “I thought Penn played extremely tough tonight. [The officials] let the game be physical, which was good, but we didn’t take full advantage of it.”
The Quakers did, though, winning the game on the strength of their frontcourt. Penn forward Koko Archibong, a first team All-Ivy selection, was the game’s star, going for 21 points and 16 rebounds. His frontcourt mate, Ivy League Player of the Year Ugonna Onyekwe, had 16 points.
“They did a really good job of setting the tone tonight,” Penn head coach Fran Dunphy said of his starting forwards. “You would like to see that out of both of those guys every minute of every day.”
The first two games the teams played this year were nail-biters. Penn rallied for a 72-63 win Feb. 23 in Philadelphia after Yale had won two weeks prior with an 83-78 decision in New Haven that accounts for the Quakers’ last loss.
Saturday night’s contest, however, was a rout from the outset. Yale fell in an early 21-6 hole and could never dig itself out the rest of the way.
For the game, Penn scored 36 points in the paint and outrebounded the Elis 42 to 30.
The opening Penn run featured too many Yale turnovers and missed 3-pointers. The Elis could not establish their inside game and as a result relied too heavily on the 3-point shot, which was not falling. In the final eight minutes of the half, the Elis found their offense, but the Quakers did not relent, taking a 37-25 lead into the break.
In the second half, Yale’s Paul Vitelli ’04 swished a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 9 points, 37-28, but that was as close as the Elis would get.
Josh Hill ’04 was the only Yale player to reach double figures, finishing with 14 points. Yale shot only 29 percent in the game, compared to 54.7 percent shooting by the Quakers.
Yale, Penn and Princeton shared the Ivy League championship by finishing with identical 11-3 records, necessitating the two-game playoff to determine the recipient of the league’s automatic NCAA berth.
Yale had its sights set on that berth – which the Quakers earned by winning their final 10 games – the team can take consolation in a possible NIT berth.
“For us to have 20 wins in our league this year, we should get an NIT bid,” Jones said.
In sharing the league title, Yale became the first team other than Penn or Princeton to finish atop the league standings since 1988. It was also the first time Yale has finished in first place since the 1962-63 season, when it finished tied with Princeton.
“Penn is where we want to be,” said Hill, who reflected on the Elis’ accomplishments this season. “We are trying to start our own tradition, and I think we are on the right path.”